News / Edmonton

First made-in-Alberta satellite launches out of Florida

Ex-Alta 1 represents 'countless' hours of work over seven years by University of Alberta students.

Collin Cupido, Kristen Cote and Charles Nokes are all part of the AlbertaSat team.

Metro file

Collin Cupido, Kristen Cote and Charles Nokes are all part of the AlbertaSat team.

This weather satellite is out of this world.

After seven years, a team of students from the University of Alberta saw their satellite launched into space on Tuesday at 9:11 a.m. It's the first satellite to be entirely built in Alberta.  

The satellite—a unit the size of a loaf of bread dubbed EX-Alta 1— launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and made a stop at the International Space Station before making a journey into low Earth orbit.

AlbertaSat, a team of more than 50 undergraduate and graduate students, is one of the first Canadian university teams to put a so-called cube satellite into space.

“Imagine a Rubik’s Cube, but this cube is about 10 by 10 by 10 centimetres,” said space physics masters student and former AlbertaSat project manager Charles Nokes. “And what you can do is stack multiple cubes together and make larger satellites and do more experiments.”

The data collected will prove valuable to sectors such as agriculture and forestry because it will help explain how energy from the sun affects things like plants growing on Earth, he said.

Ex-Alta 1 is part of the QB50 project, which saw university teams from 15 countries building cube satellites. York University student Kristen Cote, who was part of the AlbertaSat team while she worked on her undergraduate degree in astrophysics at the UofA, said the experience was invaluable.

“It’s been the most fulfilling experience, coming from a physics background,” Cote said. “It completely opened up my bucket of resources I had.”

During the process, Cote climbed the ranks to become mechanical team co-lead and said the hands-on experience has reaffirmed her commitment to the field.

“It’s been totally inspiring. It’s not something I would have thought you could accomplish as an undergraduate student."

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